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Thread: Solar Roadways

  1. #1
    I prefer the air Raptor's Avatar
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    Solar Roadways



    So a friend showed me this video that essentially outlines the benefits of having solar roadways, and I thought it was an interesting proposition. Of course, I haven't done much research on this topic (and frankly I don't really have time; I'm in finals week at my school), so I'm not exactly aware of any counter-arguments other then the large expenses. But it is interesting, and I thought it would be a nice discussion/debate.

    So, thoughts?
    Last edited by Raptor; 05-28-2014 at 06:43 AM.
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  2. #2
    Wait... What? Youwishjellyfish's Avatar
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    I think it's an amazing idea but at the moment it just seems to impractical, and slightly unnecessary. From the small amount of reading I've done it seems like the the main cons of this are cost, durability, repair costs, and unreliability. I think unreliability is a pretty weak point, it's true that if the panel becomes shaded it is going to produce less electricity, but if you are considering installing these panels and investing a huge amount of money then you aren't going to place them in a somewhere that is heavily shaded, and I think 'clouds' is a pretty lame excuse to disregard renewable energy. So this really isn't an issue until you've already used all the ideal roads.

    The cost of repair seems like a legitimate concern. I couldn't find an estimate for how much it could cost and I think most of it would depend on how easily a panel could be repaired. If you can swap out a panel and fix it at a low cost then there really isn't an issue, but if you have to fix it by replacing expensive materials or it takes a large amount of time to find the problem and fix it you might start having a problem. But I think the concern about how the roads will remain clean is reasonable at the moment.

    The durability has come up a fair bit, but it seems more like a giant question mark than anything else. It seems like the panels are passing all these different types of test, and that inspires confidence, but until there is a prototype that is exposed to a lot of wear and tear and real world conditions people are going to sit on the fence. I think as the idea progresses we are going to be able to see if this is actually a problem, but that is why you start small.

    Ah, and cost. I think this is definitely the biggest set back. To make this work as a legit source of energy you need to cover a lot of road, and the panels are expensive, you also have to dig the shoulders to hold all the wires ect, if you're going to replace existing road then you need to rip up the old one. Sure, it's creating jobs and the road will 'pay for it's self' but this is going to take so much money, take so long to implement, and then take a long time until we see the benefit. So why do it when there are better options? Well, yeah, Tron roads... Who doesn't want that.

    I think it's a cool idea, but why roads? They do come with a lot of extra stuff, which is really cool, but I think the main issue is producing clean renewable energy and solar roadways doesn't solve that problem anytime soon. I want to see it happen, and I think development should continue so we can get cheaper more efficient panels and have them installed in developing areas that don't have preexisting roads. Then maybe in 50 yrs time the idea might have snowballed enough to make this work.


    Kinda on this topic, I briefly talked to one of my lectures last year about some of the research he was doing. It concerned developing and improving a certain type of solar panel that was extremely cheap but also extremely inefficient. The company that was paying for it apparently had the idea that you could cover your whole roof with a cheap solar panel and produce enough electricity to cover all your power needs, if you then had excess power, that electricity could be sold back to the power company which would then sell it to other people. Apparently you could start making a profit after 15yrs of having the panels. This might also have it's own problems but I think it's slightly more feasible than roadways.

    So what I'm trying to get at is why do we need solar roadways? Roofs are already being used, but not fully, if you can develop a system that has a huge amount of people using these cheap solar panels, they are no longer using energy produced by coal, if you can collect the little excess they have and sell it to other people, then they too are no longer using energy produced by coal. This like a more feasible step while solar roadways seems like the distant end goal.
    "Just floating along"

  3. #3
    Senior Member AdamMZ's Avatar
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    The only pros of using these is that these stuff can heat up so there will be no more slippery ice on the road in the winter. Well, that's what I heard in Vsauce2.




  4. #4
    Streets ahead Gunnii's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Youwishjellyfish View Post
    The cost of repair seems like a legitimate concern. I couldn't find an estimate for how much it could cost and I think most of it would depend on how easily a panel could be repaired. If you can swap out a panel and fix it at a low cost then there really isn't an issue, but if you have to fix it by replacing expensive materials or it takes a large amount of time to find the problem and fix it you might start having a problem. But I think the concern about how the roads will remain clean is reasonable at the moment.
    Aren't they mostly made out of recycled plastic? That sound a hell of a lot more cheaper then the +100$/ton of asphalt(it will keep going up since it is petroleum based) that is currently being spent on the roads. Individual panels can also be switched out so you wouldn't get those annoying patches of roads to fill up holes and the like.

    Quote Originally Posted by Youwishjellyfish View Post
    The durability has come up a fair bit, but it seems more like a giant question mark than anything else. It seems like the panels are passing all these different types of test, and that inspires confidence, but until there is a prototype that is exposed to a lot of wear and tear and real world conditions people are going to sit on the fence. I think as the idea progresses we are going to be able to see if this is actually a problem, but that is why you start small.
    Durability is definitively a fair point. They have gone through some testing and the panels are good for driving on, but obviously to test out if they will actually last it will need to be tested in the field.

    Quote Originally Posted by Youwishjellyfish View Post
    Ah, and cost. I think this is definitely the biggest set back. To make this work as a legit source of energy you need to cover a lot of road, and the panels are expensive, you also have to dig the shoulders to hold all the wires ect, if you're going to replace existing road then you need to rip up the old one. Sure, it's creating jobs and the road will 'pay for it's self' but this is going to take so much money, take so long to implement, and then take a long time until we see the benefit. So why do it when there are better options? Well, yeah, Tron roads... Who doesn't want that.
    Given the amount of energy they have estimated this could produce I don't think it would take that long for it to pay up for it self. Imagine how much money could be saved if this would replace nuclear powerplants. This could also make electric cars a viable option for long distance travel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Youwishjellyfish View Post
    I think it's a cool idea, but why roads? They do come with a lot of extra stuff, which is really cool, but I think the main issue is producing clean renewable energy and solar roadways doesn't solve that problem anytime soon. I want to see it happen, and I think development should continue so we can get cheaper more efficient panels and have them installed in developing areas that don't have preexisting roads. Then maybe in 50 yrs time the idea might have snowballed enough to make this work.
    Actually I believe it would be more effective to make this start on the private level. people replace their asphalt parking lots with these panels. I think roads are a pretty great place to put this because they are just sitting around taking up space and money to renovate them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Youwishjellyfish View Post
    So what I'm trying to get at is why do we need solar roadways? Roofs are already being used, but not fully, if you can develop a system that has a huge amount of people using these cheap solar panels, they are no longer using energy produced by coal, if you can collect the little excess they have and sell it to other people, then they too are no longer using energy produced by coal. This like a more feasible step while solar roadways seems like the distant end goal.
    Again, just like with roofs this would start out with private parking lots and driveways, and the integration to public roads would be slower.

    Also, we need to figure out a way to create roads without asphalt anyways. Asphalt is based off petrol and it is fairly certain we will run out of it in the near future. I think it would be safer and cheaper to have started working on this now, rather then waiting until the last minute when everything goes to shit because every asphalt road in the world is undrivable.
    Last edited by Gunnii; 05-28-2014 at 07:34 AM.
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  5. #5
    Rationality Xeno's Avatar
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    Are you serious? Why is this even up for debate? The roads we have now are complete shit. Almost ANYTHING would be a good replacement as long as it's fairly durable and A LOT less environmentally stupid. I completely approve of someone being smart(yet simple) enough to think of an idea like "...replace the roads with solar panels.."

    Two thumbs can't wait to see this slowly come to past in the near future.

    Oh and btw I'm sure the FHA isn't going to let some unstable plastic thing replace driveways and roads. I'm guessing they've done a good bit of testing before approving the prototypes.


  6. #6
    StickPage Cave Goblin Jeff's Avatar
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    I don't really have an opinion one way or the other on this subject but because this is the debate section and Raptor was asking about counter-arguments, I thought I'd post this video that does raise some good points:



    Be warned that this video is presented in a very awful manner, and comes across more as armchair intellectualism passed off as an argument from authority rather than a solid and objective presentation. Some of the things he says do hold water if you get passed the Wikipedia screenshots and copious amount of logical fallacies. I don't really like videos like this for a number of reasons (one being that this one feels more like cynical dissent intended for circle jerking people who think they're better than you), but I can't really find any better produced videos on the subject.

    Someone on Reddit came up with a good summary of points if you don't feel like sitting through 28 minutes of rambling followed by 2 minutes of ego stroking:

    1) Just the cost of the glass paving itself would make this an extremely expensive endeavor.
    2) Glass tends to very slippy when dirty or wet which roads often are, no tests have been shown for these conditions or an emergency stop in dry weather.
    3) Dirt would act like sandpaper on the glass making it smoother and more opaque, simultaneously reducing its suitability as a road surface and lowering energy output (less energy reaches the cell).
    4) Even super bright LEDs are difficult to see at a shallow angle during strong sunlight, this means that most roads would still have to have painted on markings anyway. It is instead much more efficient just to equip cars with headlights and place cat's eyes in the roads, some urban roads may need a dynamic road system but these are by far the exception.
    5) Energy transport losses will mean that for any road surface that isn't near a point of use (e.g. a house), this will technology will be essentially useless.
    6) These solar cells are not going to generate enough power to melt snow, it is much more energy efficient just to push snow off the road and grit the road.
    7) The claim of the use of recycled glass is ridiculous.
    8) Roads are not made out of separate tiles as a)water will filter through the cracks and erode the material beneath the road and b) vehicles rolling over the tiles will cause differential loading leading the tiles to wiggle loose.
    9) It would be much easier and cheaper just to install solar panels above parking space and/or by the side of the road rather than underneath it.
    EDIT: Also a lot of these are "This is a problem I can see, and there is no official response, therefore this = bad" which sort of feels dumb given that the video feels like it's being presented like it's the end to a debate.
    Last edited by Jeff; 05-31-2014 at 07:06 PM.

  7. #7
    Dopesauce WyzDM's Avatar
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    Everything Jeff Said. Math states it would take 56 trillion dollars to do America's entire roadway system. Even If we wanted to do a part of it, you're still looking at figures close to our nation's capital debt. Save it for some private parks or walkways, at this stage it can't be used for much else.

    You guys may examine some of these sources here and here.

  8. #8
    dirty narcoleptic whore Damian's Avatar
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    Guys, really? Roads are used for travel. Cars pass over them. A lot. Look outside and chances are the road is covered in cars. Why put a solar panel somewhere that will be shaded most of the time?

  9. #9
    Ultima Veritas Zed's Avatar
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    A car moving at 30mph covers a given metre of road for approximately one thirteenth of a second.

    Because I'm sure you were thinking more about congested roads than the roads I live near (and because I'm interested) we should probably work out what percentage of the road is covered by cars at any given time. In 2001 the UK had 4353 km of roads with at least two lanes in each direction (usually three lanes, sometimes more, but I'll call it two for a very conservative estimate), and 393,050 km of roads with one lane in each direction. If all of that was rolled into a single lane it would be more than 800,000,000 metres of road. Assume, again for a conservative estimate, that a car covers the entire width of a lane and is on average about four metres long. There were, in 2013, 32 million cars in the UK. Presumably there were fewer cars in 2001 than 2013, and presumably there were more roads in 2013 than 2001, but again this will just make for a more conservative estimate. And we'll assume all of the cars are on the road at the same time. All of the cars together will cover 128 million metres of road. That's 16% of the roads covered by cars, which is significantly more than I was expecting but, as noted, I was making a lot of false assumptions which would increase the percentage. The real number is probably half what I have here. Anyway, therefore much more than 84% of the road will be clear of cars at any given time. And this is for the UK, which has eight times the population density of the US and therefore, presumably, much more crowded roads.


    I'm sure there are many reasons why this won't happen in the near future, but roads being too covered in cars to get sunlight is not going to be one of them.
    Last edited by Zed; 06-15-2014 at 02:54 PM.
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  10. #10
    Bisecting Vorpal's Avatar
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    I think it would be best used for parking lots, the actual parking spaces shouldn't be solar, I'm talking about all that extra space that's just sitting exposed, baking in the sunlight. Factories could also greatly benefit from using these for their paths.
    I'm not really sold on a total conversion. But if this technology is tested and proven to work, why not start with the smart stuff?

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